LinkedIn has more than three million members in the UAE, and this powerful group has some of the largest networks of all LinkedIn users, with an average of 211 connections per person through the site.

But while social media has become ubiquitous for professionals, it is actually useful? And what’s the best way to represent yourself and your business online? People Management spoke to Dani Blizzard, associate director – MENA at recruitment agency Digital Gurus, about how to manage social media in the professional world.

Use the right platform for your business

Facebook statistics show that Emirates Airline has one of the region’s fastest-growing Facebook pages in terms of fans. But Facebook boosts some business’s brands more effectively than others: while it can help engage customers, for instance, it may not be the best choice when trying to attract new employees.

“Personally, I think Facebook should be left for personal social media,” says Blizzard. “There are enough other social media platforms that focus solely on business. To engage potential employees, I would stick with LinkedIn. Twitter and Instagram are also good for businesses to market themselves.

“Facebook can actually lower your brand reputation. Stick with a website, maybe one that has blogs; a business still needs to be a bit corporate and distinguish itself from Facebook.”

Get your CEO online

According to information from TopRank Online Marketing, 82 per cent of customers say they trust a company more when the CEO and leadership team are active on the social web. Is it time to bring the CEO into the 21st century?

“I think it gives insight on the business and greater transparency,” says Blizzard. “Especially with the types of businesses that we work with, if they are serious about going digital then they need to be acting digitally and speaking in the right way. Online posts should always be their own words as well.”

Continuity is also important, as there is no point starting an online presence if it can’t be kept up.

Turn your employees into a social media army

Should you have a predetermined plan before you ask your employees to mention your company on social media? How do you monitor what staff are saying about the business? “We just have one person – me – controlling our social media activity,” says Blizzard. “That way, we can control what is being said and also monitor any responses correctly.”

If an organisation chooses to allow many or all employees to write about the business, it’s important to ensure everyone is on the same page – in which case, the first priority should be to create an internal social media platform to aid communication.

The most important factor to be aware of before letting employees represent the business online is that they are fully aware of the employer’s brand and are able to represent it accurately through tone of voice, says Blizzard. But if your social media efforts are going to gain traction, you need to tap into your staff – after all, they are arguably your greatest advocates.

Don’t blow your own trumpet too much

There have been various reports in the press about applicants for jobs embellishing their CVs, and although in the Middle East academic certificates must be attested and certified, recruiters say that professionals do get caught lying about their skills and experience. LinkedIn commonly features CVs, but are the details always true? And how useful is LinkedIn for matching a candidate to a job?

“In recruitment, we would find it very difficult to be as successful in our jobs without LinkedIn,” says Blizzard. “When it comes to hiring staff, whether that is internally or through an agency, you get the opportunity to connect with people you wouldn’t have been able to reach before. Businesses can build world-class teams by understanding ‘who is who’ in the industry. There are some fake profiles on LinkedIn and some people will elaborate on their career, but that occurs everywhere.”

Learn to use the privacy settings

If you’re looking for a new role, how can you do so openly without your boss finding out? “What people should know about LinkedIn is that it has privacy settings,” says Blizzard. “So you can hide your job hunt from your boss. LinkedIn has added some new features recently, including the ‘Open to new opportunities’ notification. People might be unaware that by clicking on this it automatically means that no one in your current business can see it. It’s a great way for recruiters to find you easily among the millions of people on LinkedIn.”

Be culturally sensitive

Pop star Rihanna caused controversy when she posted images of herself posing outside the sacred Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi in 2013 – highlighting the need to be culturally sensitive when writing posts or sharing images online.

Spreading false information to create public disorder is also a prosecutable offence; in the UAE, the penalty can be imprisonment and a civil fine up to AED1 million. In 2014, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) launched the ‘The UAE Social Media White Papers’, which give rules and regulations on using popular platforms including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

“Social media activity and social media advertising is still in its infancy in the UAE compared to other regions,” says Blizzard. “It is useful and can be a great way to reach new customers and get your brand out there, but employees do need to be respectful of cultural sensitivities in the region. By law, you cannot post slanderous content, nor post about negative things that have happened or comment on them. Professionals should also be aware of not posting content to do with alcohol, or images showing lots of skin, or anything else disrespectful to Emirati culture.”

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